Is Facebook Really on the Rise?

I was perusing my feeds today, and settled on an article from Nick O’Neill from AllFacebook, wherein he painted a picture of Facebook as returning to vogue as a result of coverage it’s received lately from folks like Robert Scoble and Jesse Stay. Perhaps it’s just my inability to really get Facebook, or perhaps I’m just willing to say what most people aren’t – Facebook is one of the least useful social networks.

Before I dropped into a full on rant about it, I wanted to get a little support from my peanut gallery, so I posed the question to Twitter: “do you like Facebook more now than you did a year ago? I’m genuinely curious.”

Here was what I got for answers (courtesy of Twickie):

rizzn: Probably silly asking this on Twitter, but do you like Facebook more now than you did a year ago? I’m genuinely curious.
about an hour ago

leemathews: too much noise on FB. Sponsor noise, app noise, stream noise. At least on Twitter it’s just the stream.
about 59 minutes ago

krusk: I would say I like FB more now. What I particularly like about FB vs. Twitter is the ability to stay in touch with old friends.
about 59 minutes ago

jdeeringdavis: i do not like facebook more now than i did a year ago. in fact, i’m getting bored with it.
about 58 minutes ago

ewu: my sentiments re Facebook haven’t changed, despite their UI changes
about 58 minutes ago

reachstudents: No. It feels like a bereavement…of sorts. *Prays they listen*
about 55 minutes ago

DotSauce: Hard to tell, I don’t visit it as much as I did a year ago.. but I still like it.
about 54 minutes ago

joedawson: I’m impressed with the improvements but more with Facebook Connect
about 4 minutes ago

Aside from Loic’s Seesmic client for Twitter, very little about Facebook has excited me as of late. Robert Scoble seems to have forgotten his own philosophy when it comes to what matters in social media.  He’s looking at the raw numbers and raw momentum of Facebook, and completely discounts that other social networks like Twitter and Friendfeed, while they may be smaller, have much higher levels of engagement.

I could go on and on and try to re-tell that philosophy and probably fall short of what you could discover on Scoble’s own sites and books, so instead let me just give you a real world example I shared on an episode of Michael Sean Wright’s podcast last night.

When John, Rex and I started up here at SiliconANGLE, we had zero audience here at the website.  The domain was new, and while John had moved over some of his content from into the archives, there were no regular subscribers to the feed and no followers on Twitter on our start date.

What we did notice, however, is that our social graphs have been portable due to our decision to integrate directly with FriendFeed, via including the feed in our profiles as well as using Disqus for our comments. As it turns out, the most common way for folks to come to the site is through FriendFeed, followed closely by Twitter.

Facebook doesn’t even register as a significant traffic source, and Facebook has been integrated on our site’s comments from day one.

Essentially, what I’m saying, is that Facebook is less engaged than other social networks.  People log in and are baffled as to what they’re supposed to be doing once they’ve finished their super-pokes.

So while Facebook may be indexing a lot of this stuff, these objects, articles and real-time stuff, they’ve got a long way to go before they are able to evoke actual interaction on the scale that we see on other social networks smaller in size but higher in interaction.

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Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins

Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins was the Founding Editor of SiliconANGLE, as well as the creator of and Executive Producer for theCUBE. He has since left the company to found the digital agency Roger Wilco and take a partnership with Barista Ventures.

He’s a Bitcoin early adopter, as well as a blogging, podcasting and social media pioneer. Prior the founding of SiliconANGLE, Hopkins worked as Associate Editor at Mashable during its formative years. Prior to his career in startups and media, he worked as a developer for large corporations like Nokia, IBM, Apple and Cox Communications. Hopkins lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife and two children.
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  1. I was wondering how the traffic was coming or not coming from Facebook connect. Personally I think we draw more from twitter as well as FriendFeed and now Disqus will probably help.

    Facebook imo is still a wall garden, even though they try to appear like the “new open China”, look what the “real” China just did today – cut off YouTube! So while there appears to be openness, it's like your stream of feedback from twitter, and that is still wall gardened applies – the biggest issue with FB that I see.

  2. You're being misled by the data. OUR audience is more engaged on friendfeed and Twitter, but if you are a normal person you are FAR more engaged on Facebook. Most “normal people” don't care about what we're writing about. If you look through my 30,000 followers on friendfeed you'll see that about 85% are geeks working in either web or technology industries. That's totally NOT true on Facebook. I bet that if we wrote about Britney Spears we'd get a lot more of our traffic from Facebook than from friendfeed.

  3. Hey Mark,

    Thanks for the link. Obviously I'd disagree with you that Facebook doesn't register and people don't know what's going on. Facebook has become the number one driver of traffic to Perez Hilton over the past year. While I and your other readers on Twitter and Friendfeed are likely to come to your site from sources outside of Facebook, Facebook is much more mainstream and drives much more traffic to larger sites. I'm not sure that this site is the best example of a site that would benefit greatly from Facebook.

    Not that it doesn't have interesting content, but I would argue that it's much more niche. You are entitled to your opinion of Facebook though and I'm sure there are at least a few other people that would agree :)


  4. Scoble might have a point – I may be blinded by the fact that I'm a tech
    writer in essence, and my audience isn't on Facebook primarily.
    Here's what I see on Facebook, though: I see conversations around videos of
    events, I see a lot of memes and jokes passed around, and I see a lot of
    photographs being posted.

    These things don't seem to be substantive discussion in terms of what
    advertisers look for when they think of engaging their potential customers.
    Look at what FM is trying to accomplish with ExecTweets and tell me if the
    interaction they're trying to accomplish and highlight on Twitter is
    possible on Facebook.

    I allow for the possibility I'm totally wrong on this one, I just don't see
    examples of it presently. Am I wrong?

  5. My answer is Yes, you are wrong but I still enjoy this site :) In regards to ExecTweets … I'm not quite sure what they're trying to accomplish exactly. The biggest problem is they're highlighting many people that are already popular on Twitter.

  6. I appreciate that you still enjoy the site despite me being valiantly wrong.
    If you can think of examples disproving me, maybe highlight them and
    screenshot them or something, that'd be something pretty helpful to post
    about, particularly for folks like me who are tech writers writing about
    Facebook regularly.

    I'd like to have my mind changed on this, if possible.

  7. I spoke to a corporate marketing guy yesterday about supporting this site and he he asked was “What is your traffic”… I wanted to tell him that we are new, but the real audience is in the millions because people we talk with have audiences and topics are intergrated and the collaboration flows through all social graphs.

    For example: Mike Arrington comments or amplifies or Robert Scoble or Nick..etc – we are sharing our social graphs and social capital – we are sharing our audiences. That is what the users expect. Twitter and Friendfeed and Facebook only amplify this concept.

    So by that standard SiliconAngle has millions of users as it's audience – the reality is that the collaboration and conversations determine how much the audience is.

    I've said many times blogging and social media is a team sport. Users want this and the folks who share their social graphs will retain users and get new ones.

  8. Hi Mark,

    Enjoy your output.

    Engagement on Twitter in the case of this tweet has been 0.2% of your followers, which is almost as bad as Facebook ad clicks! Though I haven't included RTs, which could be considered a form of engagement…though that would also mean further reach of the original message, so would need to be quantified.

    But I do agree that Facebook is bafflingly poor at engaging, considering it is a 'social network'. How many of the groups, pages and profiles are mostly stagnant, save for the occasional visitor who puts their head round the door, says something and then goes away again? Most of them. There is little real conversation going on, just people shouting into spaces and then going off to upload a photo.

    I've really enjoyed using Facebook from when it was a student site, through quite a few changes (some of them inconvenient, like the strangling of apps, but most of them improvements) until about three weeks ago when Facebook had a nervous breakdown and became something much less good.

    I'm intrigued to know what conversations are happening at Facebook right now, because they have made a mighty mistake in the view of their users, yet they seem to be pretty sure that they know best. I think that there is a majority number of Facebook low-activity users who will be happy to close their accounts once the hardcore users start showing they are disillusioned, which is happening.

    I just can't believe they've dropped the ball.

    Still, I guess it all makes for a more interesting internets.

    Luke (a peanut)

  9. Yup ! FB rocks……. : )

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